“I think we are going to see, in six to eight weeks, major transmission in this country, like we’re seeing in England,” said Dr. Michael T. Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota and a member of Mr. Biden’s coronavirus advisory board. “If we can set up vaccine clinics faster and more efficiently, how many lives do we save?”
Mr. Biden intends for the federal government not only to develop mass vaccination sites, but also to reimburse states for the use of National Guard troops to administer vaccines.
The plan’s emphasis on ensuring equitable distribution includes the mobile vaccination clinics, as well as using data to target vaccinations in hard-hit areas and in communities that have been disproportionately affected by the virus. The fact sheet also says that officials will focus on places where people live in close quarters, such as jails — which some state plans have failed to prioritize, even though some of the country’s largest clusters of infections have been in prisons.
The vaccine distribution plan is part of Mr. Biden’s broader effort to use the current crisis to rebuild the nation’s crumbling public health infrastructure — long a goal of Democrats on Capitol Hill.
To that end, Mr. Biden has promised to increase federal funding for community health centers and has called for a new “public health jobs program” that would fund 100,000 public health workers to engage in vaccine outreach and contact tracing. Such a corps of trained public health workers would presumably be in place for the next pandemic.
“The details still have to be worked out but, this is really a critical recognition that state and local health agencies need to be shored up in a way that they haven’t been in decades,” Dr. Osterholm said.
Nearly 390,000 people in the United States have died with the virus during the pandemic, and the country has logged more than 23 million infections, according to a New York Times database. Over the past week, there has been an average of more than 240,000 cases per day, an increase of 27 percent from the average two weeks earlier. More than 4,400 deaths were announced on Tuesday, a record.
As of Friday, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 10.6 million people had received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, and about 1.6 million had received the second dose. That is far short of the goal federal officials set to give at least 20 million people their first shots before the end of 2020.